February 03, 2005 16:38 ET

Anishinabek planning urban strategy

Attention: Assignment Editor, News Editor NIPISSING FIRST NATION --(CCNMatthews - Feb. 3, 2005) - The Union of Ontario Indians is developing an urban strategy to address the social challenges faced by its citizens living off-reserve.

"We must become vigilant and ensure our brothers and sisters who live off-reserve are taken care of, and are provided substantial support and assistance to close the income gap and ensure prosperity for all our people," said John Beaucage, Grand Council Chief of the 42-member Anishinabek Nation. Beaucage was commenting on a recent study by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which showed that aboriginal people face a wider income gap and higher unemployment rates in a number of urban centres across Canada. Sudbury, with an estimated 13,000 aboriginal residents, was one of the cities involved in the FCM study. Other major urban centres within Anishinabek Nation territory include Sarnia, London, Barrie, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, and Thunder Bay.

"We feel the findings are indicative of a similar trend across other urban centres within the Anishinabek Nation territory," said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. "It is obvious that the federal and provincial governments are failing to address First Nations unemployment and poverty."

Beaucage said the Union of Ontario Indians is committed to providing equal and effective advocacy for their urban and off-reserve citizens through the development of an urban strategy, which will be part of the organization's strategic workplan called "Anishinabe Noondaagaazwin -- listening to the voice of the people." Adopted by the organization's board in December 2004, this strategic framework aims to address issues of unemployment, education, family violence and child welfare, and literacy. Beaucage said a specific urban strategy on these issues will ensure the organization is effective at representing its 50,000 citizens on and off-reserve.

The Grand Council Chief plans to work with urban service delivery organizations, such as the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, and individual Indian Friendship Centres, to implement the UOI First Nations urban strategy. He applauds the work of the Friendship Centres across Ontario for providing services to urban residents.

"We understand that many Anishinabek who live in cities take advantage of programs offered through the friendship centres," Beaucage said, noting that his organization provides all friendship centres in Ontario with bundles of the Anishinabek News, the UOI monthly newspaper. "We do our best to let all our citizens know about the work we are doing on their behalf."

The Grand Council Chief expressed concern about organizations that claim to speak on behalf of urban and off-reserve First Nation citizens. "The so-called off-reserve representation of our urban First Nations citizens is a ruse. Simply put, these organizations have become self-serving and are ineffective. Our national and regional organizations, including the Union of Ontario Indians, must step up to more effectively represent urban First Nation residents. These are our brothers and sisters who have strong ties to our lands and historical communities. Let it be clear that we are one people no matter where we choose to live."

The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.

Contact Information

  • Bob Goulais, Executive Assistant to the Grand Council Chief
    Primary Phone: 705-497-9127 ext. 2245
    Secondary Phone: 705-498-5250
    E-mail: goubob@anishinabek.ca